By Olawale Ajimotokan
The federal government has threatened to prevent travellers who refuse to make themselves available for compulsory PCR test, seven days after arriving the country from using their international passports for a minimum of six months.
The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, issued this threat yesterday when the task force briefed the media.
Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said the need to activate the sanctions, including passport suspension for erring individuals, was necessitated by serious non-compliance by defaulters, which had assumed a 65 per cent level.
He also regretted that statistics from record indicated that only one out of three passengers, who arrived from abroad, were presenting themselves for the mandatory in-country test, which they signed up to and paid before arrival.
He warned that the country is at risk of second wave of COVID-19 and its importation from abroad having opened its airspace for international travels.
In addition to this, he lamented about non- adherence to pharmaceutical interventions as a result of the massive anti-SARS protests in some parts of the country, warning that the next two weeks will remain critical.
“The PTF at the last briefing cautioned on the need to avoid complacency on account of the low number of infections published daily and the possibility of a second wave. That advice was premised on the fact that risk perception remains very low and sample collection has been on the decline. In the midst of all these, the nation has experienced several large gathering events during which the Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions were not really observed. The situation in Europe and the reports from the USA showing the consequences of non-adherence, are quite vivid.
“The PTF is highlighting these issues repeatedly because we remain at risk of importation, having opened our airspace and massive spread as a result of the protests. The next week or two remain critical. The PTF has noted with sadness the failure of Nigerians who arrived from abroad to present themselves for the in-country PCR test which they signed up to and paid before arrival. Statistics emerging from our records show that only one out of three passengers have shown up for the in-country test.
“As you may recall, the PTF announced the guidelines on the reopening of the airspace and the obligations of arriving passengers. The PTF similarly announced sanctions as a consequence of any infraction. Having observed serious non-compliance to the level of 65 per cent, the need has arisen to activate the sanctions which includes the suspension of the passports of such defaulting individuals for a period of six months minimum,” Mustapha declared.
Also speaking at the briefing, the National Coordinator of PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu vowed that in the next few days, PTF will publish the list of the first 100 persons to be suspended for defaulting on the compulsory test and suspend their passport for six months.
He said that doing that will be the only way to enforce testing at day seven and follow up with those that are infected or alternatively stop flights from worst affected countries, which is not an option given the effect it would have on the country’s economy.
Aliyu stressed the need for the country’s quarantine rules to be strict in order to stop transmission of COVID-19 in the country and retrogression into second wave of the pandemic.